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Aug 8, 2008 11:56 AM

Do you really need to rest your arm on the table to eat?

Not sure I really noticed this until I had g-son for a yr. & was teaching manners but what's up with the arm on the table between the edge & the plate? Seems like they're leaning on it to eat. I guess if you spill it only gets your arm and not the napkin presumably on your lap. Also the fist curled around the fork which is way inefficient!

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  1. Mostly I try to get the food in my mouth. Aside from that, I give a green light to hands, elbows, and other useful body parts on the table. As long as you don't try to take too many of the shrimp.

    That's why I love chopsticks ... portion control.

    1. My Sainted Motherâ„¢ often asked if "I was preventing the table from taking off the way [I was] holding it down." My Father-unit was much more blunt, "If you're so tired you need to lean on the table to eat, you can head off to bed now." He once accused me of protecting my plate like a felon in a prison when I hunched over a plate. The one-and-only time I tried to eat-and-run he quipped that he could provide a flat-spade for quicker shoveling. Since I knew where he was going with those points and didn't have any suicidal drives, I reverted to the better manners I'd been taught within the next breath. The leaning on the fist was a little tougher to break but I managed. :)

      1. I was always taught "arm, yes (but delicately), elbow no."

        7 Replies
        1. re: wayne keyser

          Strictly forearm only in our house, and that but lightly. Fork held properly with thumb and two fingers. Quiet chewing, with mouth closed, and swallow before you speak. None of this got in the way of our enjoyment of food, and it allowed everyone else to enjoy theirs, too...which is the whole idea of manners.

          1. re: Will Owen

            "it allowed everyone else to enjoy their food."

            And how would an elbow on the table get in your way in the enjoyment of food?

            1. re: Steve

              An elbow on the table introduces the whole upper body to hover over the table. This is an encroachment upon the neighboring diners' personal territory. Being a person brought up with Anglophilic sensibilities, I feel such encroachments intensely, and would rather leave the table entirely than suffer them. However, my schooling in manners dictates that I should swallow my distaste and suffer the offense in silence. So I will. But if it's MY table, the offender will not be invited back.

              1. re: Will Owen

                "An elbow on the table introduces the whole upper body to hover over the table. This is an encroachment upon the neighboring diners' personal territory"

                Why does my neighbor's personal territory include the airspace over my plate and silverware?

                Since I take up the same amount of side to side space sitting upright and leaning forward, doesn't this mean both I and my neighbors are in constant encroachment on each other's spaces?

                How small is your table? Considering your feelings, does anyone seek to be invited back?

                1. re: FrankJBN

                  I need to be more explicit: if you are beside me, I notice you when we are conversing, but we are otherwise not with the cone of each other's attention. If you haul yourself forward, you have forced yourself on my attention. Where I come from, this is considered boorish behavior. And if you slurp, smack, or otherwise make unseemly noises (as elbow-loungers are more likely to do), those offenses are greatly magnified.

                  The essence of good table manners, as I was taught them, is to be as unnoticed as possible.

                  And yes, many are invited back, including (I must admit) more than a few who violate one or more of these precepts...

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    ...are you also that self absorbed with a left handed person? He or She would take up more of your personal space as well...or the European mode of using implements in both hands, hovering a little more around their food, perhaps you could move your chair over a bit, or change chairs,or allow for peoples differences or habits...graciousness goes a long way.

          2. re: wayne keyser

            Me too, unless there is absolutely no food on the table (before the appetizer, between courses or after dessert) then an elbow is ok...

          3. In a word: no. It's bad manners to put an elbow on the table. I don't know who made this rule up, but I've always followed it. Plus, I never leave enough room between the edge of the table and the plate to stick my elbow in there.

            Your comment about the fist curled around the fork made me laugh....way typical kid move and very cute when they are young :)

            2 Replies
            1. re: diablo

              "Your comment about the fist curled around the fork made me laugh....way typical kid move and very cute when they are young :)"
              cute when they're young, yes. unfortunately there are many adults who appear never to have progressed beyond the fist-hold. that's one of my biggest peeves when it comes to table manners [or lack thereof]. it seems to be more common among men than women, and there's just something so oafish about a grown man shoveling food into his mouth with his paw wrapped around a small utensil.

              re: the elbows on the table, we were taught in my house that it's always a no-no, but it doesn't really bother me when i see others do it. i've dined with many people over the years who keep at least one perched on the table. i do see it more often in casual situations than formal settings.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                I agree: Adults doing the fist curled around the fork=not so cute.

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